Monday, September 5, 2016

Why You Need to Keep it Simple at the Micros in Order to Profit More

keep it simple at the micros
One of the biggest reasons why some people fail to achieve their goals in online poker these days is over thinking. Go to any poker strategy forum online and you will see an insane amount of over analysis regarding very simple situations.

Since the games have gotten a bit tighter in recent years (and win rates have declined as a result), many people think that you need to be some sort of super genius and study every advanced theory in order to win.

Nothing could actually be further from the truth.

A very simple approach is still by far the best way to achieve maximum success especially at the lowest stakes online. I am going to talk about exactly how to do that in this article.

Tight Does Not Necessarily = Good

I think all of this over thinking and over complicating starts from one simple false belief that a lot of people hold. That is, they think that because somebody plays tight, then they must be good or at least competent.

The reality is much different.

Learning to start folding some bad hands is definitely the first and most gigantic step that there is to becoming a better poker player. However, it does not in and of itself guarantee you success.

In fact playing tight does not necessarily make you a good player at all. There are many absolutely terrible nits at all levels of the micros! And by this I mean consistently losing poker players.

And this is really what we have at the micros today, especially at the lower limits (NL2, NL5 and NL10), a bunch of beginners who have learned to play tight.

I showed this conclusively in my latest video series. In 6 hours of live play at NL2 I encountered one halfway decent player in the entire time that I played. Yes, you read that right, one.

The entire video series was also recorded on Pokerstars (including Zoom games) which is generally regarded as one of the toughest online poker sites that you can play on. I also did very little table selecting and played at some of the absolute worst times to play.

The games were so easy that it was literally like taking candy from a baby. Though the sample size is admittedly totally insignificant, my results (something silly like 35bb/100), tell you enough.

The bottom line is that yes, the micros do play tighter these days. There is no question about that. And this does by default protect a lot of these players from making the huge mistakes that fish make.

But don't confuse this with good play.

The skill level at the lower end of the micros at least is still very poor overall. And this is not even to mention how easy it is to tilt the regs at these stakes and turn them into human ATM machines.

A Simple Strategy for Simple Opponents

So this is why my approach and strategy in these games really all revolves around a very simple exploitative strategy.

Versus the recreational players you should always apply a very basic strategy of isolating them frequently and then value betting the crap out of them.

This is because they think about poker entirely at what is often referred to as "level 1." More specifically this means that all they are concerned with is their own hand and whether they like it or not.

They are completely oblivious to everything else. This is why you have to be patient and keep you play incredibly simple in order to beat players like this.

But even against the regulars in these games, there is no wizardry required in order to destroy them. My strategy to beat them does not involve any complicated math, any 5th level thinking or crazy bluffs.

The key to beating the tight regulars in todays micros is actually very easy as well. You simply, find their weaknesses and then you exploit them.

How to Use an Exploitative Strategy Against the Regulars

So how do we actually put this into practice at the poker tables?

Well an exploitative strategy is very easy to understand. Basically it is all about them. It is all about playing the player. You find out where they make large mistakes and then you capitalize on them.

The key thing to realize about most players at the micros is that they are completely unbalanced in almost everything that they do. I am talking about the regulars here once again by the way. The fish of course always have no clue.

By the regs being unbalanced I mean that they will almost always be either way too passive or way too aggressive in any situation.

For instance, they will:
  • 3Bet way too much or not often enough
  • CBet way too much or not often enough
  • Bluff the river way too much or not often enough

When your opponents are so completely unbalanced like this all you have to do is recognize where their weaknesses are and then counter them in a logical manner.

Because no matter whether they are too passive or too aggressive they are always leaving themselves open in some way.

So For Example:

Here are a few scenarios and the logical counters.

1) If they only 3Bet you with the nuts (Preflop 3Bet% of 4 or less), well then steal their blinds all day and always fold when they finally fight back.

2) If on the other hand they 3Bet you too much (Preflop 3Bet% of 8 or more), then open with less hands especially in late position and 4Bet them lighter.

3) If they CBet the flop too much (Flop CBet of 80% or more), then float them more or raise depending on how they react.

4) If on the other hand they don't CBet enough (Flop Cbet of 50% or less), then take more stabs at the pot but give up more often if they fight back.

There is nothing complicated about any of this and there is no complex math or odds analysis required. These are simply logical counters to the mistakes that your opponents are making.

Use Your HUD Effectively:

Now of course this is all much easier to do if your HUD is optimized properly for the micros. You should have all of these stats readily available for each player at the table.

However, even if you play live (or online without a HUD), with a little bit of observation, you can tell what type of player you are up against and how they are unbalanced.

The bottom line is that an exploitative strategy is all about playing the player. Nearly all players at the micros are either too aggressive or too passive in most spots.

There is a logical counter to exploit this every single time. Recognize their mistakes, capitalize on them, and then everybody becomes a fish.

You Should Play a Loose Aggressive Game to Beat the Regulars

Speaking more broadly now, you should also employ a loose and aggressive game to beat the regulars in today's micro stakes cash games.

Browse nearly any online poker room today and have a look at the table averages for VPIP at the lower limits. This basically means the average percentage of hands that the table as a whole is playing.

You are often going to see numbers like 10%-15% for full ring and 15%-20% for 6max.

What does this actually mean? It means that you basically have a bunch of people sitting around playing ridiculously tight and waiting for the nuts.

This also means that they are volunteering to give up in a huge amount of situations if faced with enough pressure. This is because we all know how hard it is to make the nuts in poker.

So for instance, you should start playing quite a few more hands from all positions. Versus the players who will fight back by 3Betting light I already talked about how to counter that above (tighten up a bit and 4Bet wider).

After the flop as well you should continue to use a loose and aggressive strategy against the regulars. This means that you should CBet and then double and sometimes even triple barrel more often.

You should also raise them more often and float with a wide variety of hands. Again, your HUD will tell you exactly where they are weak so that you can find the best line to take.

In my book, "Modern Small Stakes" there are over 100 detailed example hands on exactly how to apply big pressure versus every type of regular that you will encounter at these stakes.

In sum, playing a loose aggressive game against the tight regulars at the micros will absolutely destroy them. The big key is to make sure that you give them their due respect when they fight back in a big way.

I think this is the mistake that a lot of people make. Believe me, they aren’t bluffing you when they raise you on the turn. They have been sitting around waiting for the nuts for the last hour. When they bet big, they have it. Just laugh and fold. Easy game.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped prove useful to a couple of you struggling at the micros out there. I know it might sound counter intuitive but the way to beat these games couldn’t be more simple these days.

Even though the micros often play tight this does not mean that your opponents are necessarily good. In fact, most are not.

Most have large fundamental problems with their game and they are usually very unbalanced across a wide variety of situations (either way too aggressive or way too passive).

You don't need to know any complicated GTO in order to beat players like this, calculate exact odds or get involved in levelling wars.

The strategy here is very simple. Find out where they are leaving themselves open and then use the logical counter to exploit that.

If they give up a lot in a specific spot, then bet more often. If on the other hand they are clearly bluffing too much, then float them more and call down lighter.

Winning poker at the lower limits is really just like a puzzle that you need to solve. All of your opponents are making big mistakes. Simply put the pieces together by finding the logical counter and you will win big.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. What type of strategy do you use to crush the micros today?

If you found this article useful then do me a quick favour and hit the "Like" or "Tweet" button below. Thanks!

simple poker strategy at the micros


  1. Another great post. I'm a live cash player losing at $2-5. I'm taking my game more seriously lately, study and play more, join the forum...etc. Considering moving down to $1-2, grinding there with more study, practice. Your articles always greatly helpful. Thanks Nate...

    1. Glad I could help, all the best at the tables!

  2. Brilliant article Nate again I luckily realised I was playing waaaay to clever at $2nl about a year ago if I'd had the bankroll I would of tried my luck much higher but alas I didnt so I'm back to the grind,I've moved up the first run of the ladder I'm at $5nl and I've got double figure winrates for most sites,I just need the confidence to keep moving up your articles are brilliant mate!

    1. Good job Matthew and glad my articles are helping you!

  3. Great advice as usual. Sometimes we don't fully understand the importance of making things simple and smart. It took me months and a lot of buy-ins to realize they're not bluffing as much as I thought.

    So make it simple, be calm and keep the long run always on your mind.

  4. the games got tougher, and the rake got higher

    i did an analysis on my micros sessions and discovered that my profit was lower or equal long term as the rake, so i split all my profit with the pokersite

    every time you go fifty fifty pair vs two high cards classical situation, the poker site is laughing at the bank. and with all the russians and ukraineans out there all day long infesting tables tahts what happens all day long, if your decent. if your a fish of course you get sqashed, but im not talking about that

    so i decided to invest my TIME AND MONEY in other fields that proved more profitable

    1. What you mean about other fields that proved more profitable..sportbets

    2. What you mean about other fields that proved more profitable..sportbets

  5. Wonderful, Nathan! I always get a bit confused with all those hands since when variance comes into play all figures get somewhat distorted... or what the heck - straightened up! Ha-ha! It's the good play itself that matters and you are a good player, Nathan. More important though - you are kind and generous enough to share your knowledge with other people. Keep going and be happy!

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  7. Thank you Nathan! Are you considering writing about bet sizings? Because i believe this is another thing why we destroy our winrates. Especially when double barreling...

  8. Getter
    Good article, Nathan! I'm anxious to try it out. 2 questions, please: My HUD doesn't start until I start playing, so I have to wait for awhile before enough hands are played to be significant. Are other HUDs able to give you info without having to play? Americas Cardroom shows H/hr for each table; does this figure help for choosing a table? If so, how?

    1. Thanks, glad you liked it! Most poker rooms do not allow you to collect data without playing or if they do, it's only like 20 hands. I don't use the H/hr stat. I don't think it has any value in table selecting.

  9. Hi Nathan, Thanks for offering all these insights on your blog. I purchased the training video's and the book combo. Very insightful. Also procured PT4.

    So I am playing for a while now, like a couple of 1000 hands. Nothing shocking. What I learned mostly is the fact not to tilt and being convinced in the way you played the hand even though you get beat time a few times in a row by crap hands. Guys hitting their 1,2 or 3 outer. That helped me tremendously to keep my calm in combination with the fact to learn it is a long term game.

    I think I understand my weaknesses, quite a few...., and will work on them. My worst weaknesses are better trying to understand what range the others could have and I struggle to fold at the right time.

    I have one question for you. I am reading quite a few times that by betting on the flop/ T or R you block certain draws. I don't see how to convert that into a game plan. Can I find something in your blogs on the topic or can you make a topic about blocking? Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi DE,

      Glad my blog, videos and book helps!

      It sounds like you have the right approach. This is indeed one of the most difficult parts of the game. That is, making the right play and losing. It seems counter-intuitive and just wrong in every way.

      But of course it is all about the long run in this game and in order to keep the bad players coming back time and time again, they have to be able to get lucky sometimes.

      As to your question, I don't really understand it. Could you elaborate on where you got this from and in what context they are talking about?

    2. Hi Nathan, thanks a lot for your reply. I have picked the blocking bit up elsewhere on the internet. I was poor in describing my question by mentioning it in the context of betting. Sorry for that.

      What I have meant and later found on the topic it is described in the link below:

      The above goes more in a mathematical side of poker and is useful I believe. Not entirely sure if it is really required on NL2 a lot?

    3. Hi DE,

      I didn't read the entire article and I don't know who the author is either but this seems like a case of crazy over-thinking to me. This is something that I talk about all the time on this blog as you might know.

      I rarely ever think about blockers and how to use them preflop or postflop and I have had a lot of success at the micros. They hold very little importance in my opinion.